When reading this poem, you might find yourself asking, "Where are we? What's happening?" You might not realize that the Hollow Men are supposed to be dead people until your second or third read of the poem. It also helps to know a little about things like the River Acheron from Greek mythology. Moreover, the poem displays a familiarity with Dante's Inferno that you'd have to know intimately (like Eliot) to understand. Eliot is often criticized for being too much of an academic, and you get some of that flavor here. But the poem also has a very distinct sound, and it's not hard to figure out that the Hollow Men are not the happiest or most satisfied folks.